Get serious

Hands up. How many who call for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq really mean it?

I mean, how many want the US and the UK forces to drop what they’re doing, head for the Baghdad airport and wait for a plane to transport them home? Who– besides someone who wants to see the US and the UK humiliated at any cost– would seriously advocate such a thing?

Yet denouncing the occupation has become almost a mantra among some elements of the antiwar movement, especially the groups– Stop The War in the UK and International ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice in the US– which organized the biggest antiwar demonstrations. Their focus has shifted seamlessly to, essentially, one demand: “Get out now.”

Michelle Goldberg of (free day pass required) talked with a demonstrator at last Saturday’s march in Washington who was carrying a sign declaring: “U.S. Troops Out of Iraq. Bring Them Home Now!”

“We’ve made a giant mess,” said [the protestor]. “I would hate for the Bush administration to halfway fix things and then leave, and then blame the Iraqis if things go wrong. Once you go to somebody’s house and break all the windows, don’t you owe them new windows?”

Why, then, was he marching at an End the Occupation rally? “I don’t agree with all the people here, believe you me,” he said. But his own sign? He glanced at it, startled, and explained that someone had handed it to him. “I didn’t even look at it,” he said. “I was just waving it.”

Doubtless there were many others like him– unhappy that the US invaded Iraq, uneasy about what’s happening there, but not ready simply to bug out. And certainly not sharing ANSWER’s position that “The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance.”

Nobody I know of is calling for a permanent occupation of Iraq. Shouldn’t the serious debate be over the nature of that occupation and how to achieve the transition to Iraqi self-government as speedily and securely as possible? The fact that the leading “mass” antiwar groups have nothing to offer except a slogan that many– probably most– of the war’s opponents disagree with is a sign of their failure and irrelevance.